Bedding Wars 2/10/2006 By Jim Merritt From A to ZZZZZ: Hotel Interactive's Jim Merritt goes "undercover" to find the latest bedtime trends at hotels across the nation. You might
call it "The Battle of the Beds 2006." This year a number of leading lodging chains are rolling out softer, more luxurious and comfortably-named bed packages. And not only in the upscale markets. Some "midpriced" brands are getting on the bed bandwagon too. The battle cry could be: out with bedspreads and old-fashioned comforters, in with high thread-count sheets, and -- dare we say it - "up with down." The trend apparently dates to 1999, when Westin introduced the "Heavenly Bed." Westin properties still feature the Heavenly Bed custom-designed pillowtop mattress set by Simmons, a comforter and a crisp white duvet. More - and softer - bedfellows are in the offing, though. At Hilton Hotels, Suites & Resorts, the Hilton Suite Dreams bed features a plush-top mattress designed with Serta to provide both "support and luxury." The new bed package is being introduced after Hilton Hotels Corporation surveyed 1,000 U.S. households and found that 50 percent of respondents reported only six hours or less of sleep per night while traveling -- two hours less than the average needed to function at peak performance. Also after consumer research, Marriott International, Inc. owners and franchisees have invested nearly $190 million in replacing 628,000 beds at approximately 2,400 hotels worldwide. JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Renaissance Hotels & Resorts were among the Marriott brands that replaced the traditional bedspread with down comforters nestled inside sheeted duvets. Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts now offer beds with seven pillows, a plush duvet, and luxurious sheets as part of a "Sleep Advantage" program developed with the help of sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus. USA Today recently noted that the "hotel bed wars" were spreading to lower priced properties too. Holiday Inn Express is planning an upgrade of its standard bedding package with a $53 million investment to be rolled out to the more than 1,400 North American properties beginning in April, with full implementation expected by September. The Holiday Inn Express SimplySmart program replaces the bedspread with an attractive decorative top sheet, a medium-weight duvet blanket and soft 200 thread-count sheets.
At Hilton's Hampton Inns, a "super-comfortable" new bedding package will be available in more than 1,300 hotels by June. The new Hampton "Cloud Nine" bed replaces the oldfashioned bedspread with a crisp, white duvet cover enveloping a white comforter. The bed also features three or four pillows and a choice in firmness (some filled with soft down, some with firmer foam) But what about the conventional wisdom about a firm mattress being good for your back? That wisdom was debunked in a study several years ago. The American Chiropractic Association reported that mattresses of medium firmness were better at improving lowback pain symptoms than firm mattresses. The American Chiropractic Association's Dr. Scott Bautch says, "As we, as a society, have become more full-figured, designs like pillowtop mattresses have become extremely popular… mattresses designed with support and then the addition of a soft top (pillow top) will benefit the majority of people." The bottom line, according to Dr. Bautch: " For the majority of people - including hotel visitors - there needs to be basic support with a soft top."